Day of chewing the fat with Ponson tips the scales on weighty matter

February 21, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - In every life, there should come at least one moment of perfect clarity, and mine came yesterday when Sidney Ponson told me that I ought to think about losing some weight.

It's time to get my act together, so I'm going on the Sidney Ponson Diet, which is a little like the South Beach Diet, except that you actually spend a lot of time at South Beach while you're on it.

"I eat grilled fish every day," Sidney said. "I eat meat only once a week and pasta once a week."

That sounds easy enough. We are in Florida, after all, so it isn't exactly tough to find some place that serves a nice grilled swordfish. I'm a fried grouper man myself, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and there is a rumor going around that I might ride along on the Ripken Baseball minor league fantasy bus tour in May. Don't want to take up two seats.

(This is probably as good a time as any to point out that I was made for the fantasy camp concept, since I've been pretending to be a sportswriter for the past 26 years, but negotiations with the Ripken people still are ongoing.)

I've got to give Sidney credit. He's been getting an earful from me all winter - particularly in the weeks after his little run-in with the authorities in Aruba - but he still agreed to share the real secret of his offseason conditioning program.

Eleven days on bread and water?

"No, you have to do 45 minutes of cardio every day," he said.

That's it? If I run on the treadmill for 45 minutes a day, I won't look like Roger Ebert anymore?

"I run and swim every day," Ponson said. "If I'm in the gym, I do 25 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the elliptical."

I don't even know what an elliptical is, but that doesn't matter since the paramedics probably will arrive about 10 minutes into the treadmill. I asked Sidney if he knew how to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but he told me that if it came to that, I would be on my own.

"I'm going home now and I'm going to have a nice piece of mahi-mahi with chopped onions and green peppers," Ponson said.

Give an assist to Orioles Aruban scout Chu Halabi, who moved in with Ponson in Florida this winter and has served as a full-time mentor and nutritional adviser. He has been doing most of the healthy cooking, though Sidney is becoming something of an amateur chef himself.

There is some irony in having a diet guru named "Chu" (which is pronounced just the way you might think), but he should get a bonus from the Orioles if Sidney shakes off his difficult 2004 season to re-establish himself as the club's go-to starting pitcher.

I've got to admit he looks pretty good, though with Sidney that's somewhat relative. He claims to have only lost 13 pounds, but he looks much more fit and he seems truly committed to getting his career on track.

If that doesn't work, maybe he can punch out Emeril and take over his time slot on The Food Network.

Orioles strength and conditioning coach Tim Bishop spent part of yesterday measuring each player's body fat, which is done by pinching certain parts of the body with something called a skinfold caliper.

I briefly considered asking Bish to use the body fat calculator on me, but abandoned the idea because, well, I just didn't want to know.

"It doesn't go that high, anyway," he said.

Portly Red Sox pitcher David Wells recently made headlines when he took a shot at superstar Alex Rodriguez for being presumptuous when he said "we" in his introductory news conference with the Yankees.

" ... like he's won three or four rings, which he hasn't," Wells said.

I've always liked David (he cracks me up), but it was even more presumptuous for him to rag on the best player in the game for trying to act like a part of his new team. It's not as if Wells has ever shown any great loyalty to any franchise during his career.

Final thought: Wells is honoring Babe Ruth by wearing No. 3 this year, which is nice. He has long been a huge fan of the Babe, but up until now has chosen to honor his memory by eating way too much and getting into bar fights.

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